Q&A with Cara Munnis of Amwell: Navigating virtual visits with digital care delivery enablement


AVIA Marketplace is the leading online resource for accurate, unbiased information about digital health companies and solutions. Our goal: To empower hospitals and health systems with the information they need to match with vendors who can meet their unique needs. We asked the top companies in the virtual visit space about their solutions and what they think the future of digital health looks like. No sponsored content or advertorials—just transparency and insights that decision-makers can use. 

With its signature digital healthcare enablement platform, Amwell partners with providers, payers, and innovators to improve access to quality care, anytime and anyplace. Amwell’s comprehensive white-labeled digital care platform spans across in-person, virtual and automated care, including acute to post-acute care, chronic care management, behavioral health, and wellness. Health system clients can customize the patient and provider experience to their preferences, with configurable modules for a variety of service lines and a mobile software development kit to support expansion into existing patient apps. Formerly known as American Well, Amwell was founded in 2006 by brothers and physicians Ido and Roy Schoenberg.

Cara Munnis is on a mission to improve patient outcomes through healthcare technology.  Trained as a Product Management and Program Management professional, she has a unique 15-year background in driving multimillion dollar software launches for the healthcare industry across Health Plan, Employer, Health System, Independent Practitioner, Consumer and International markets.  She specializes in driving high profile, cross-functional product strategy, planning, delivery and launch efforts through her influence as a department leader and software development operations enthusiast.  Cara holds a BS from the College of the Holy Cross and a MBA from Bentley University, and she currently serves as the Vice President of Product Management at Amwell (NYSE:AMWL).

Q: Can you tell us about your company and the challenges you are solving within the virtual visit space?
A: Amwell enables health providers, payers, and innovators to achieve their digital ambitions, making every action across the healthcare system easier, more reliable and optimized for better outcomes. In 2006, Amwell pioneered virtual health care. Today, our future-ready platform, Converge™, connects care across in-person, virtual, and automated modalities and provides an open and scalable infrastructure that can grow alongside our customers. We bring a suite of strategic services that deliver true partnership and better outcomes, ensure consistent and timely execution, and provide solutions to close gaps in care, including an affiliated network of medical providers. Together with our customers and innovation partners, we forge a model that adapts as needs evolve and enables the kind of care that can truly create a healthier world.
Q: How does your company differentiate from other virtual visit vendors?

A: Amwell is not a virtual visit vendor. We are a digital care delivery enablement company, providing the tools and technologies necessary to allow the trusted names in healthcare to deliver better outcomes and higher quality care anywhere across the care journey through one platform and one strategic partner. We see digital care as a tool to change how care happens, rather than where care happens. We are not in the business of replacing in-person care or traditional care providers–we believe that in-person care will continue to be an important care setting, however, it must be complemented with virtual and digital care modalities to create a single longitudinal care experience and expand overall access to care to improve clinical outcomes. The open architecture of the Amwell future-ready platform supports this care integration while preserving infrastructure investments that may already have been made by our clients.

Q: What are some of the biggest changes your company has seen around how health systems are approaching virtual visits, given the changes in the landscape over the past couple of years?

A: Health systems are looking for a single digital care partner. During the pandemic, many health systems invested in a variety of different tools with various vendors to keep up with demand. Now, they are reevaluating their technology investments, in many cases under tighter budget constraints and amid staffing shortages, and looking at how they can utilize digital care to help them address these pain points. Increasingly, they are seeking a single partner who can grow with them and support them as their needs change over time.

Q: What does an ideal client look like? How are health systems best organized for success in standing up virtual visit capabilities?

A: While there is no one way for an ideal client to look, the most successful virtual care deployments are with health systems that obtain buy-in from leadership as well as various stakeholders throughout the company. IT is also a key stakeholder, given the many important technical components. However, clinicians are the ones using the technology, so they must be brought in at an early stage to help increase usage and ensure that the digital care program fits into daily workflows and is well integrated into the EHR and other clinical systems. Health systems that don’t earn buy-in from clinicians risk adding further stress for already overburdened clinicians, instead of helping them keep their focus on patient care.

Q: What measurable outcomes have you seen from your clients who have prioritized virtual visits?

A: Amwell has enabled clients to deploy a hybrid care environment to improve critical outcomes, such as realizing cost savings, better quality of care, reducing clinician and care team burnout, and better patient experiences. With one client, 47 percent of patients stated that they would have gone to an urgent care or retail clinic if the health system had not provided virtual visits–meaning those patients could have potentially gone out of network. Another health system was able to reduce unplanned admissions, ED visits, and other acute care episodes by 5 percent, resulting in over $1 million of annual total cost of care reductions. Another health system saw a 17-fold return on their investment using the Amwell platform. Amwell Medical Group® also works to enable health systems with additional clinical resources, which can be invaluable. For example, a major health system partnered with Amwell Medical Group on a quality improvement plan and saw a 98 percent reduction in the number of inappropriate visits, 89 percent increase in full documentation, and a 97 percent antibiotic stewardship rate, compared to 69 percent prior.

Q: What major functional enhancements and/or product investments are you making in the near term to keep up with the evolution of virtual visits?

A: Amwell is continuing to enhance and build out its next-generation digital care delivery enablement platform, Converge. Converge is a future-ready platform, designed to seamlessly integrate in-person, virtual, and automated care–effectively providing a complete, connected, and intelligent longitudinal, digital-first healthcare experience. The Converge platform is embedded in the EHR in the existing clinical, financial, and consumer workflows that providers use every day, facilitating easier provider adoption while they continue focusing on patient care. The platform was designed to leverage a client’s existing tools and infrastructure investments, including the flexibility to add third-party innovation through its open architecture. Included in the Converge synchronous in-visit framework is the ability to refer patients to automated care and digital behavioral health programs that follow the patient asynchronously post-visit, improving outcomes and decreasing costs. For example, the Amwell Comprehensive Behavioral Health program can support patients no matter where they are in their mental health journey, from mental health coaching to in-hospital psychiatric care–the program is able to provide critical care across the care continuum.

Q: How is your company partnering with clients as reimbursements and use cases shift?

A: Amwell is a true digital care enablement partner. With more than 16 years of experience in virtual and digital care, clients look to Amwell for its deep expertise and industry knowledge, in addition to its state-of-the-art technology. We work hand-in-hand with customers, bringing consultative know-how to their unique environments. As part of this, Amwell offers many services, including marketing and engagement services, to help health systems ensure that their digital care programs are being utilized by patients and clinicians, as well as a grant manager to help health systems learn about and apply for critical grants to be able to expand virtual care programs.

Q: What are the biggest opportunities health systems should be thinking about this coming year when it comes to virtual visits?

A: Health systems need to think beyond virtual visits when they consider building and launching digital care programs that can truly move the needle for them. Instead, they should start by assessing the specific needs of their patients and care teams and look at how digital care can help them improve outcomes–financial, clinical, experiential, and otherwise. Once they understand where the opportunities lie, there really is no limit as to how digital care can be used.

Q: How do you see virtual visits evolving in the next two to five years and beyond?

A: Amwell sees virtual care moving well beyond simple virtual visits. We have an incredible opportunity to combine virtual care with in-person care and other digital care modalities to create an entirely new model that provides better outcomes for all. Over the next two to five years, health systems and the industry as a whole will continue to realize the value of digital care. We see health systems broadening their use cases for digital care and the variety of technologies they use, from wearables to automation, and embedding it more deeply into workflows to improve the way care is delivered.

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